I think no matter what we do in life, we always make room for doubt. When life gets hard, we often doubt that we are on the right track. I do that. I think most people do. The degree to which we allow doubt to linger in our lives is up to us. I try to fight hard against doubt… and honestly, of all the people I talk to in some sort of ministry capacity, a common thread struggled with is failure. Doubt that we are making a difference and sometimes: “was I really called to this?”… It’s often hard to see the small daily impact without stepping out, resting and being intentional to look at the forest not just the trees.
I did just that at the beginning of the year. I knew in my head I needed to step out and take a break. But as so many global workers experience, my heart told me to stay. Thank God for my friend Lauren (volunteering with us for 3 months) who all but made me leave. (Thanks Lauren).
We went to Tanzania. I decided I would read 2 regular books and I would study through the book of Jeremiah (light reading… #sarcasm). I would get up early every morning and go for long walks on the beach and read and journal and… none of that happened. I slept… a lot. I was so tired. (thanks again Lauren, for all the candid sleep photos)
I was teetering on the edge of self doubt. I didn’t want to let those self-defeating thoughts in, so I fought them off with prayer.
BRIEF SIDE LESSON: Prayer does not need to be on your knees, hands together and only after having gone through specific meditation or tradition. You can certainly do that, but it’s not a requirement. The gospel message is one of restored relationship. God wants to talk with you. It’s a conversation. He talks, I listen; I talk, He listens.
So, I spent a lot of time having these lengthy conversations with God. I told him what negative thoughts were trying to break me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I expect these thoughts to come to try and stop my ministry. But that doesn’t make them easier to fight… of course. But, there’s the part where you should ask “is there any truth to this at all?” I don’t want to work outside of what God is directing me to do. So that was a reoccurring question. “God, am I still doing what you asked?”
Meanwhile, I saw a beautiful photograph where we stayed our first few nights. Elephants migrating to the mountains during rainy season with a huge, vivid rainbow spanning the sky behind them. This photo captivated me and I asked God to show me a rainbow during our safari.
Mikumi National Park, 8 hours later, we arrived and set up camp in the middle of literally nowhere. I realized that it was still considered to be dry season and chances of seeing a rainbow were almost zero. But none the less, I kept praying to see a rainbow as a sign that He is still with me. As the long hot days and the vast, brilliant open skies at night quickly passed by, I started to voice my prayer to also see a lion kill something. This was the most morbid thing I’ve ever talked about seeing. But the lions are so fascinating and for some reason I wanted to see that.
On our last day, I fell asleep in the breeziest place I could find, simply talking to God. I awoke to Lauren and our guide (making fun of how I fell asleep) ready to roll out and see the animals. As we drove around the grove of trees surrounding camp… there it was- a faint, but beautiful rainbow. I flipped out!!!
A rainbow still in dry season?!?!?! This was impossible!… or at least highly improbable. Eventually, I calmed down and we continued off to find the pride of lions we saw earlier. We found them. They were doing the same thing they’d done all week. Lying in the shade and occasionally licking themselves. Keep in mind, our guide told us visitors often come to Mikumi, spend a week there and never see a lion. We had seen 3 big males and a large pride. We should count ourselves lucky.
Lauren: “OHHHH! One of them just stood up! What is she looking at?!”
The lioness started to walk. Then she started to trot. It was hot. Lions don’t move if they don’t have to. We scrambled to see what the lion was moving towards. Then we saw it. A baby buffalo had gotten separated from the herd and was wandering around looking for its mom. The lion was in pursuit, but more like a casual pursuit. I was surprisingly anxious for the baby buffalo. I was actually a mess watching this scenario take place. (and Lauren, bless her heart, loves animals and was really appalled I had asked this as a prayer request). We were both freaking out but excited, and yet so mortified to watch… and then there was that rainbow. Ultimately the buffalo was taken down by the lioness in one graceful move…. right where the rainbow met the horizon.
It still blows my mind that God responded to my prayers the way He did. Probability of seeing a lion kill another animal was low. Seeing a rainbow was even lower. Seeing them together… I’m almost in disbelief when I think about that day.
The past 6 months processing my answered (morbid) prayer request, I’ve considered all that I have/ sometimes still question in my life…. I realize what I saw that day is my life. I said yes to this. I had a choice, and I said yes. And in that ‘yes’- God has promised me restoration. Restoration for me and for others. He shows restoration to me consistently.
But this answer to prayer… is a picture of what God has done and what He will continue to do. Every time I have seen atrocities that have lead to death, to pain… I have always seen life immediately after. I said ‘yes’ to a life surrounded by death and hurt. But God has promised in each horrific situation, where innocence is attacked, He will meet me there with a rainbow… with life.